The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Hitting the road for God

Retirees in RVs? They just might be ELCA Mission Builders

Les Sandbakken had never built a steeple. Other members of Bethel Lutheran Church, Little Falls, Minn., had little experience with a hammer and nails. Their challenge: build their church between the spring thaw and winter without the money it would have taken to hire a general contractor.

Mary Rothe (left, white hat), Diane
Mary Rothe (left, white hat), Diane Osborne and Betty McGiffert wield hammers to construct the building for their church, Waters of Life Lutheran, Duluth, Minn. Parishioners join the work crew when ELCA Mission Builders come to help with construction.
Faith took over when the ELCA Mission Builders came in 2002 to help. Mission Builders are retirees who arrive in RVs with spiritual energy and experience to construct churches, camp facilities and other ELCA-related facilities. Volunteers from host congregations join the work crew.

Carl C. Larson, who was pastor of Bethel during the construction, said, “Together they led the congregation to do something that some thought impossible.”

At a ceremony, Sandbakken turned on the lights inside his handmade steeple—a signal to the Little Falls community that Bethel had met its mid-October deadline. “The lighting [ceremony] was really emotional,” said Sandbakken, whose design makes it appear as if a 6-foot cross hangs above the 30-foot steeple.

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February issue


Embracing diversity